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Could This Cheap Trick Boost Solar PV by a Third?

07 Sep 14:00 by Steve Walia

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A professor from the University of Oxford has claimed that he has discovered a new way of boosting solar panel efficiency by nearly a third. Even more interestingly, he says that the innovation costs just £1 a metre, as it uses a thinly applied layer of a material called perovskite.

The physics professor explains that the current best in class silicon models still only allow 22pc maximum efficiency and cost a whopping £60 per metre. This new solution would increase the cost by just 10pc whilst gaining 30pc improved output.

As part of his, Professor Snaith has been seeking to boost the standalone efficiency of the material from 4pc to 20pc. This is the fastest ever gain in efficiency for solar power since 2009.

Perovskite is particularly interesting because it has an adjustable band gap which measures the energy absorption spectrum. This compares to silicon, which is a fixed element.

This means that extra light that is absorbed from the sun at higher energy levels is lost. However, by growing perovskite crystals in a lab, the higher band available for visible light can be used along the silicon panel that will capture infrared. This results in a two-part cell that absorbs greater amounts of energy across the spectrum. 

The professor hopes to have these new panels available in just three years through his own firm, Oxford Photovoltaics. Already it is progressing with a production line thanks to funding worth £12 million raised in 2015. Its ultimate goal is to get rid of silicon panels entirely and move towards perovskite, which will be more efficient and simpler to process. 

Ultimately, this offers the prospect of an energy tipping point where fossil fuel power is economically unviable as well as being unsustainable in nature.